Norwich Friends International marks 10 years
By Abi Patience
branch of national Christian charity Friends International
is celebrating its 10th anniversary as well as welcoming scores more international students to the city, many at the UEA.
In 1999, Friends International staff worker Angela Leeding moved to Norwich to start a new branch of the well-known charity that works to befriend and welcome international students to the UK.
She started a regular event in her home, the 'World Cafe', as a place for international students to meet with each other and with English people.
Pursuing relationships with several of the Norwich churches, Angela very quickly had a small team of volunteers working with her. Many of these people are still involved today, through sitting on the Management Team, taking part in the local hospitality programme, or helping at events.
Over the years the work has grown and grown, and the World Cafe now meets in Holy Trinity Church on Trinity Street. Some weeks there are as many as 40 or 50 students there, spending time together and enjoying the varied and interesting programme of events.
As well as the World Cafe there are opportunities for students to join Bible Study and discussion groups, visit British homes to experience local hospitality, or attend a group of international Christian postgraduates.
There is a group for wives of international students and their pre-school children which meets on Monday mornings ('Tea Break'
), with something different happening each week. And throughout each term there are day trips arranged to interesting places nearby, as well as an occasional weekend away further afield.
From such small beginnings ten years ago, Friends International in Norwich has grown into an established, thriving and exciting ministry reaching many students from around the world each year. "There have been many challenges along the way but God has always supplied our every need," says Angela.
As to the most important thing for the future, Angela is clear: "We rely so much on relationships with people in churches across Norwich and Norfolk. The time people give is invaluable - it enables us to run events, but more importantly the more people that are involved, the more international students we can get to know. It is wonderful how God opens up opportunities to share our faith with people from many countries around the world who are right here in Norwich for a short time."
Friends International Norwich is celebrating its 10 year anniversary on the weekend of October 3-4. We would love as many people as possible to come and celebrate with us at a Ceilidh on Saturday October 3, 7-10pm, at Holy Trinity Church. There is no cost for the event which will include dancing, music, desserts and stories from students past and present.
Pictured above is the FI team meeting international students arriving at Norwich railway station and, top, some FI students enjoying a day out.